Anemia of β-thalassemia is caused by ineffective erythropoiesis and reduced red cell survival. Several lines of evidence indicate that iron/heme restriction is a potential therapeutic strategy for the disease. Glycine is a key initial substrate for heme and globin synthesis. We provide evidence that bitopertin, a glycine transport inhibitor administered orally, improves anemia, reduces hemolysis, diminishes ineffective erythropoiesis, and increases red cell survival in a mouse model of β-thalassemia (Hbbth3/+ mice). Bitopertin ameliorates erythroid oxidant damage, as indicated by a reduction in membrane-associated free α-globin chain aggregates, in reactive oxygen species cellular content, in membrane-bound hemichromes, and in heme-regulated inhibitor activation and eIF2α phosphorylation. The improvement of β-thalassemic ineffective erythropoiesis is associated with diminished mTOR activation and Rab5, Lamp1, and p62 accumulation, indicating an improved autophagy. Bitopertin also upregulates liver hepcidin and diminishes liver iron overload. The hematologic improvements achieved by bitopertin are blunted by the concomitant administration of the iron chelator deferiprone, suggesting that an excessive restriction of iron availability might negate the beneficial effects of bitopertin. These data provide important and clinically relevant insights into glycine restriction and reduced heme synthesis strategies for the treatment of β-thalassemia.


Alessandro Matte, Enrica Federti, Michael Winter, Annette Koerner, Anja Harmeier, Norman Mazer, Tomas Tomka, Maria Luisa Di Paolo, Luigia De Falco, Immacolata Andolfo, Elisabetta Beneduce, Achille Iolascon, Alejandra Macias-Garcia, Jane-Jane Chen, Anne Janin, Christhophe Lebouef, Franco Turrini, Carlo Brugnara, Lucia De Franceschi


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